Four Mennonite women who loved children and education lived frugally and gave generously. By naming EMS in their wills, the women contributed a combined total of $890,354, which ended up funding a quarter of the cost of the Eastern Mennonite Elementary School renovation project, completed in 2019.
Lena Yutzy Showalter, from Plain City, Ohio, married Norman Yutzy in 1955. The two served Trissels Mennonite Church in Broadway, Virginia, where Norman was pastor and Lena shared hospitality with hundreds of people in their home and in various church roles.
The family operated a dairy farm and raised turkeys. Their children – Lenora, David, and Charlene – all attended EMS. Norman Yutzy died in 2000 and Lena remarried Omar Showalter in 2006. Lena gave generously to family, church, and school.
Helen Trumbo ’42 Shank was an editor, writer, and teacher. In the early 1940s, she taught Summer Bible School in remote areas with Virginia Mennonite Conference. In 1946, she co-authored a paper on the mission stations of the Mennonite Church in the highlands of western Virginia and the mountains of West Virginia contributing to historians’ understanding of this movement.
From 1945 to 1966, Helen worked at Mennonite Publishing House, Scottdale, Pa., editing Beams of Light (later called Story Friends), and Words of Cheer, a youth publication.
In 1968, at age 43, Helen married Stuart Shank (1920-2018). She taught second grade at Plains Elementary School for the next nine years and supported Stuart’s work on their Broadway farm.
In the 1980s, Helen wrote the stories of Stuart and others who served with Civilian Public (alternative) Service during WWII. In later years, she welcomed interviewers to her room at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community to help with photos or inquiries about twentieth-century Mennonite history.
Gladys Driver ’38 and Brownie Driver ’46, were sisters who lived their lives within a five-mile radius of Harrisonburg. Through creating works of art with cloth scraps and teaching others the same skills, their impact was global.
Among the organizations that benefited from their craft were their home congregation of Weavers Mennonite Church, and Mennonite Central Committee through the Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale, where one quilt sold for $4,100.
In 2007, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South African Nobel Peace Laureate, received an award at James Madison University, and Eastern Mennonite University President Loren Swartzendruber presented him with a 21” by 31” quilted wall hanging by the sisters.
Gladys and Brownie both passed away in 2017. Their cloth creations represent the art, beauty, and community life of Mennonites in the Shenandoah Valley.